Rockstar's laptop* got left in a foodcourt this summer. The Queen had not wanted to wait for Rockstar to finish his breakfast before going in to Summer Putonghua Camp, so I walked her in first. Rockstar brushed past me hurriedly going in the doorway, on my way back out to get him. Glancing at his heavy book bag, I assumed he had stuffed his laptop back in it before leaving the table, and so I went straight down to Wan Chai to check out a first draft print for a work assignment. Rockstar had however left his laptop on the foodcourt table, assuming I would go back and sit there.
Three+ hours later, to our mutual horror, we realised our mistake. The foodcourt was now so packed with office lunchtime crowd there wasn't a table free.
Several floors down, the Lost & Found staff are kind, but apologetic.
"No one's turned in a laptop. I suggest you go back up and ask the foodcourt staff who were working in the morning. They may not have had time to come down here yet."
Assumed Translation: "RIP Laptop"
Rockstar valiantly attempts to ask around for his beloved lost machine, following a harried foodcourt worker who is somehow managing to navigate a heavily-laden trolley full of used plates and with two large almost-filled trash bins attached to either side of it through the queues of office workers and packed tables. He hesitates when the worker stops to clear yet another messy table for waiting lunchers, and I realise Rockstar is trying to figure out how to make himself understood in Cantonese. That's when I recognise another worker, a relatively older auntie, pushing a similarly laden trolley nearby. She also cleans the public toilets in the building, Queen E and I passed her just that morning.
Foodcourt Auntie blinks. "I've got one in our cleaner's room, I wasn't off work yet, so I didn't have time to bring it down to Lost & Found."
We follow her in back and wait in the doorway, frequently moving aside for trolleys, washing buckets, and other foodcourt workers changing out of their cleaner's uniform as they finish their shift. She appears to take a bit longer than we would expect. Eventually she emerges, and we realise she was rummaging about for a suitable paperbag - which she hands to us, with Rockstar's double-Articuno-stickered machine in it.
(OMG!!!!!!!!! Like it wasn't already enough that she saved our laptop!!!)
It's like you just want to apologise for all the times you didn't check if you flushed a public toilet properly before fussing your little kid out of the cubicle, or left the foodcourt table in the most awful state without a thought about who cleans it.
"Don't ever disrespect someone cleaning your table, this lady saved your laptop!!!!!" <calms down sufficiently to proceed without exclamation marks> "Just think - if you had been a brat who decided it would be fun to mess with your leftovers by smearing the oily sauce on the table or dropping your food on the floor to squish it (we've actually seen random kids we don't know do this, and the Queen has asked me before when she was younger why she isn't allowed, she loves messes so) your laptop can join the leftovers in that greasy trash bin" (Well metaphorically, at least :P)
It was an incredibly humbling lesson. All the nicely dressed corporate types with the cool enviable jobs sitting at lunch to discuss all those important projects. Foodcourt Auntie clears the tables and cleans the toilets, I guess you could say she's got a pretty lousy retirement job. And she saved that laptop. When Rockstar and I approached her, we're basically a 9.5yr old child with his own laptop*. She then also decided to find us a paperbag to carry it in.
In other words, Foodcourt Auntie drove over any self-important ego we had with a monster truck.
*Rockstar has no iPad, Xbox or Playstation though; won a cellphone in a raffle draw several years ago, no line on it, he just uses it for Pokemon.. and speaking of kids with laptops...
(Don't be fooled by the small number of kids in his groups, almost all the courses were fully booked up more than a month before the break - they kept the groups very small, I think this is the first time they had this camp in HK with most instructors being computer science undergrads from HKU or the States (New York, I think some of them said))
Now for the fun part. But first, the disclaimer: None of the kids in Rockstar's narrations are pictured in this post.
Firstly, it was not uncommon for someone in the lab to start erm, "raging," as Rockstar calls it, when the stuff they were working on well, didn't work. When they lost it and tried to pick up the chairs or table (yes really), they found the furniture couldn't be moved. (Well, one of his friends managed to pick up a chair on the first day but when they came in next day onwards the chairs were swapped for the rest of the course <impressed>)
Secondly, no swearing, fighting or taking others' stuff, on threat of being sent home for the day. (According to Rockstar, everyone really wanted to be there, so this one was super effective.)
Thirdly, "lunch". Another spectator sport for Rockstar and new friends. One kid in the younger age group apparently came to camp each day with a fresh HKD 500 bill he would "break" by purchasing 11 ice creams or, once, a whole chocolate cake. (I asked Rockstar to see if he could pick out a difference in the kid's productivity in the afternoon session; according to him there was a lot more "raging" after lunch.)
After the first day, Rockstar insisted on getting his lunch each day from the HKU foodcourt, which he says is just brilliant. Halfway through he discovered the curry stall and it wasn't long before the (very nice) staff started asking him if he really ate all that chilli stuff (he does).
Fourthly, the stuff. Rockstar and his new friends were incredibly entertained by some of the gadgets the other kids, predominantly in the younger age groups, brought. As in, HKD 3,000 mouse, HKD 7000 keyboard, some headset which all the kids liked because it was the only one with a mouthpiece...
Me: How d'you guys know how much the mouse and keyboard cost?
Rockstar: The price tags were right there! Like, right where you could see it if you walked by and knew where to look! In big letters! We were like 'OMG it really says that much on the price tag!' Ok maybe they wrote it themselves but I don't think so.
Me: Yeah in this case I don't think so either (some of the kids were quite young, sounded more like super-excited doting parents sending little kid to first tech camp on HKU campus). D'you.... ever wish you had those?
Rockstar: What? No way! What if I'm really lousy (at coding) but I have the most expensive stuff?? <cringes> But they look nice, and we were like Whoa!! Go see what that kid's got over there. The older groups all seem to use cheaper stuff though. Also, I'd be so scared I was going to lose it at camp. Oh, Guy With Headset lost it right away.
Rockstar: <nodding vigorously> Yeah!! Someone else was walking around wearing them.
Me: What, kids beat each other up over tech accessories now, not sneakers? 😛
Rockstar: Nah, when they were gone from his desk he went to the instructor who asked, "Anyone seen a headset?" and one kid called out, "I wonder where it could be?" - and he was the one wearing it! They still threatened to call his parents if he did it again, though.
I mention by way of saying I don't think anyone steals stuff for real in this camp, if they saw something they liked they'd probably just go home and ask their own parents for it 😀
After seeing how privileged our kids can be nowadays, we really needed the laptop foodcourt